Floor Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
In Support of the Bingaman Renewable Energy Amendment Mr. President, I rise today in support of Senator Bingaman’s amendment to set a national goal to obtain 10 percent of our nation’s electricity from renewable sources. I support this idea, in fact I have filed an amendment to go one step farther, requiring 20 percent renewables by the year 2020. America needs a national commitment to encourage clean, domestic sources of renewable electricity. I’ve been in Congress for thirty years. I’ve seen the nation make tremendous advances in areas ranging from medicine to the internet. I’ve even witnessed the Red Sox win the World Series. Yet, the nation literally remains dependent on many of same power plants that operated when I was first elected to Congress in 1974. When I think of the next thirty years, I envision an America where clean, domestic renewable energy sources are an integral part of our nation’s electricity generation. As the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I think obtaining 10 percent of our country’s electricity from renewable energy represents the modest end of what we could achieve. Let me offer three reasons why I believe a national commitment to encourage renewable power is needed. First, renewable power would help consumers by reducing electricity prices. According to data provided by the Bush Administration’s Energy Department, a renewables requirement would lower consumer energy costs by the year 2020. The second reason is the benefit to public health and the environment. A renewables requirement would dramatically reduce carbon emissions from power plants. It would also significantly reduce emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides. These pollutants contaminate our water, cause smog and acid rain, and contribute to respiratory illnesses. Third, a renewable electricity standard would enhance our energy independence and our national security by diversifying our energy supply. As we increase our reliance on natural gas, much of the demand may have to be met by liquefied natural gas shipped to the U.S. from other countries. It is unthinkable that we should sink to greater reliance on foreign fuel imports when we have abundant, inexhaustible renewable energy right here. Currently renewable energy accounts for a little over 2 percent of U.S. electricity generation. But the U.S. has the technical capacity to generate 4.5 times its current electricity needs from renewable energy resources. The potential is there, but we have to give it the assistance of market incentives, as we have traditionally done for our more established fuel sources. I urge my colleagues to again demonstrate our strong commitment to renewables and support the Bingaman amendment.